Making the decision to go into a drug treatment facility is a life changing action.
When you or someone you love makes the choice not to continue a life in addiction, it is huge. The first few days in treatment can feel alien, and scary. As the mind and body begin to heal, some friends are made, and it becomes easier to fall into the daily routine of the center. Then comes the next step, leaving the safe haven of the facility and transitioning back into life. While the first step was a huge achievement, going home can feel even more frightening than when you first entered rehab.
The risk of relapse is high in the beginning of recovery for everyone. Early in my sobriety I would hear people at twelve-step meetings say that it was a gift that they were there. Others would introduce themselves as a ‘grateful recovering addict’. I would mumble to myself, “Yeah, some gift, sitting here in a meeting.” At the time, I did not fully comprehend what a gift sobriety is, nor could I be grateful that I had to sit through meetings. In time, it became clear that sobriety really is a gift of a better life. I watched people come in and out of the rooms. I watched people go back out and never return. The statistics are not too great for those that get clean and stay clean—maybe one out of ten.
Although relapse is a part of many people’s story, relapse does not have to be a part of yours. Before ever entering drug treatment, most of us have already tried controlled drinking or using. It was obviously out of control, which landed us up in treatment. Having the right mindset and following some simple ideas can help prevent relapse in the first year.
- Make a clear decision. Things do not have to be complicated. Making the decision within yourself not to use under any and all circumstances is a good first step toward life-long sobriety. Many people get stuck in the thought that it is a disease, and that they are helpless. Will power does play a huge part in sobriety. My sponsor always says, “The will to stay clean has to be greater than the will to pick up.” No matter what life deals you, just don’t pick up.
- Make 90 in 90. While having the will to stay clean goes a long way, but doing it alone can take a toll. Loneliness is a risk factor for relapse. Upon returning home, find out where there are meetings in your area. Make a commitment to make 90 meetings in 90 days. If a meeting does not suit you, find a different one. Going to a meeting every day for the first three months helps to build a new network of people who will be there to support you.
- Get a sponsor. Sponsorship in sobriety is important. Keep your eyes and heart open to find a sponsor. Don’t be afraid to ask someone to sponsor you. Even a temporary sponsor is better than no one. When I was newly sober, my sponsor was a life saver. When I asked her to sponsor me, she agreed to be a temporary sponsor. We are still going strong almost a decade later. In my toughest early days, I did not pick up because I did not want to disappoint her, or risk losing my new friendship. A sponsor will hold you accountable and help you through the steps when you are ready.
- Balance – Finding balance in life may be more difficult than it sounds. As addicts, we got accustomed to chaos. We were always behind the eight-ball, so to speak. We may have piled up responsibilities so high that when it became unbearable, we used as a means of escape. Maybe we are people pleasers, and do not know how to say ‘no’. Whatever our personal circumstances were that brought us into addiction, the bottom line is that our life was out of balance. In sobriety, finding balance will bring peace and contentment. Sometimes in early sobriety, we may get stuck in trying to make up for lost time in aspects of our life such as work, spending time with our children, making things better with our spouse, etc. While finding something in place of using can be a heathy outlet, be mindful of substituting one addiction for another. It may be easy to fall into over working, sex, food, or over-exercising as a substitution for drugs or alcohol. Getting the right balance of sleep, food, work, alone time, and social time is the key to contentment.
- To thine own self be true. Honesty is the lifeline of maintaining sobriety, beginning with the self. Lying to ourselves about our addiction is often what kept us out there. Learning to be true to yourself, in all endeavors, will bring peace into your life. Be honest with yourself about what you can handle, and what you cannot. Be honest with yourself in your friendships or personal relationships, and do not be afraid to tell people how you feel (with grace and dignity, of course). Keeping emotions bottled up, and not being true to ourselves is what lead us into addiction to begin with.
Keeping an open mind in early recovery, and listening to suggestions from those who have long term sobriety are a few more of the keys that unlock a new beautiful life!